Sunday, 18 January 2015

Wake up and smell the chocolate - A walk through the birdcage

This post was prepared for publication whilst we were moving, but with all the hoo haa of moving I forgot about it!  Thought I would publish it now so you can all have a read.  Apologies for the poor photo quality, most of them were taken on my cheap mobile phone.

I've done an awful lot of walking around the area we've just moved from in Birmingham in the past six months, probably more than in the past six years.  That's a shame as mostly it isn't bad, but like most urban areas, parts can be a little unsavoury.  Recently I've been walking past Cadbury's, the large chocolate factory nearby, and somewhere I used to hang around when I was younger.  There is a footpath which cuts through the grounds of the factory, it is known as the birdcage walk, come with me for a stroll around Bournville. 

I lived just the other side of the tracks (literally!), and so first port of call is the station.  This is where I would commute from, before I learned to drive.  I used to get the train at 6.50am, and get off just a few stops down the line at Five Ways, so the journey was fairly quick if the trains were running to time.  

Like a lot of things in Bournville, the station is painted Cadbury purple.  On platform one there was a huge gold Cadbury sign and the glass and a half of milk, the Dairy Milk logo. These disappeared years ago, but I used to stand next to them whilst waiting for my early morning train, and must be on some tourist photos from way back, particularly as I remember some Japanese tourists at the crack of dawn, snapping away! 

The photo below is an old one of mine but the view is just the same today

Walking towards the factory itself we go down a private road, Franklin Way.  This road used to be closed one day a year, and did not appear on general printed road maps as it was not adopted.  Everything was maintained by Cadburys, the roads, paving, and street lamps.  It appears to be partially maintained by the local authority so ownership may have changed!

At the bottom of Franklin Way an entrance to the factory is in front of you, on Bournville Lane.  It looks rather odd, a little Arts and Crafts style building with a whacking great factory behind it.

As we walk along Bournville Lane, the main vehicular entrance comes into view, and the extent of the factory becomes clear.  This was also the original entrance to the birdcage walk and the chocolate shop, where workers (or anyone they lent their card to, if you were lucky) could buy discounted products and bags of mis-shapen chocolates in plain sugar paper bags.

Just a little further along, and the original frontage has been substantially remodelled fairly recently, to the dismay of locals.

I don't like it, but I suppose it looks more like the main entrance to a global confectioner than it did. If you look carefully through those windows, you may be able to see the glass and a half sign and in the middle window the word 'Mondelez' this is the new Cadbury name and has been for a few years.  

This view shows the style of frontage that was replaced by the new main entrance.  The new entrance to the birdcage walk and Cadburyworld (from the station) is just to the left of the photo.

The birdcage walk is so called because the path is enclosed on both sides by high railings, giving the impression of being in a birdcage (some imagination needed though!).The entrance now takes you past what was the restaurant on one side and sports field on the other.  A fountain with statue overlooks the sports field.
 The restaurant used to be open on the Cadbury fair day, and where the main entrance is now there was a sumptuous cinema where you could sit and watch cartoons all day! 
 This pavilion is a lovely building, South Birmingham school sports days were held here many years ago and I ran for my school on several occasions, as did my father before me!

Walking through the birdcage proper now, you get the feeling of being enclosed

This is where the smell of warm chocolate starts to envelope you!  I'm not a great fan of chocolate but the smell of warm chocolate is very nice in small doses. 

The Bourne brook runs under the factory, and as a child I used to think it was liquid chocolate as it is always brown.  I imagine it used to be used to power machinery when the factory was built.

 The Bourne enters the factory at this point.  I've actually never seen this area so low before, it is usually a mini chocolate covered lake.  With ducks!

Another view of the maze of buildings within the factory, some with fancy white faced bricks too.

I do love the old architecture on the factory buildings, even though they were industrial they were still built with attention to detail.  These must be some of the prettiest factory doors in Brum!

I'm nearly at the end of the birdcage now, and as we pass the welcome sign for people driving in to Cadburyworld

I exit the birdcage walk and arrive at my destination, Bournville Village Green, home of the Tudor Selly Manor and the Rest House on the green.

Well, I hope you enjoyed the journey through a small piece of Birmingham's industrial history.  I certainly enjoyed the walk, and the smell of chocolate! 


  1. Thank you for the tour! WIsh I'd been to Cadbury's World before Kraft took over!x

  2. I did enjoy the walk, thank you! I'm a sucker for social and industrial history, so that was right up my street! xxx

  3. Thank you for the interesting tour of your area. Our state also has a Cadbury factory, that I visited many years ago. I find Tudor buildings so impressive..

  4. Many decades ago my grandmother went on a day trip to Bournville. She brought me back a Bournvita mug with a little 'cap' to put on the top to keep the drink hot. How I wish I still had it.


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